The vaults of Scepter, Wand and Musicor were the first to which we gained unlimited access. The great thing about that from a personal point of view was that my co-founder of the 6Ts soul club, Randy Cozens, had championed Scepter and Wand since the mid-60s. Wand’s main acts, Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown, were the most played and revered artists to feature at our dances.
Florence Greenberg had formed the labels in the late 50s, recording mainly black acts from the New York area. The success of the company was guaranteed once the Shirelles began a string of hits in 1960 with the chart-topper ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’. An astute businesswoman with a great feel for the music, Florence knew to employ the cream of producers, arrangers and songwriters available and could hustle with the best of them. This was shown with her purchase of Maxine Brown’s contract from the major ABC label when her career there stalled.
Florence’s ability to get some of the best songs from the Brill Building and 1650 Broadway writers was demonstrated in the stream of pop-soul masterpieces that she secured for Dionne Warwick from the hottest composers in town, Bacharach and David. Scepter also boasted Tommy Hunt, whose record ‘Human’ was a big R&B hit, and later pop singer B.J. Thomas, who sold millions of records in the second half of the 60s. Those major talents were augmented by acts such as Rosco Robinson, Freddie Hughes and Nella Dodds, as well as great one-miss-wonders Jack Montgomery, Wally Cox, the Ivorys and the Gentleman Four.
The first few various artist compilations Kent issued featured mainly the lesser-known acts whose discs had been adopted by the Northern Soul scene. There were also solo sets from Chuck Jackson, Maxine Brown, Tommy Hunt and the Shirelles. In 1984 we gained access to the Nashville-housed master tapes and unearthed a slew of wonderful unissued recordings. To British soul fans’ ears it was almost criminal that they had been deemed not good enough for public consumption. Tracks from Maxine, Chuck, the Shirelles, Tommy, Bettye Lavette, Maurice Williams and others helped revitalise a sub-culture that had struggled through the early 80s.
Playing an equal part in this belated New York soul explosion was the Musicor catalogue. Musicor sported the Platter’s stunning mid-60s period, Porgy & the Monarchs, Jimmy Radcliffe, Sammy Ambrose and a single by the young Melba Moore. By the mid-70s, Melba’s 45 had enjoyed enough plays on the UK’s soul dance circuit to warrant bootlegging, but it was the discovery of the third track from the session, the soulful original version of ‘The Magic Touch’ (as recorded by the Bobby Fuller Four), which shook the rare soul world. With all the qualities of the best Wigan Casino dancers, it became massive across the UK’s Northern scene and quickly spread via scooterists and mods right across Europe. Coming at the peak of that first Euro soul movement, it was one of the key records to convert so many devoted soul fans.